Monday, April 30, 2007

Munchie Mondays: Anise Lemon Thyme Sables

This recipe came about during a rant session one day when Sammi and I hanging out. Cookies just seemed to be in order and I realized I had a bottle of pure anise extract that just *had* to be used somehow.

I love the smell and taste of liquorice, but my husband nearly gags when he gets a whiff of it, so needless to say it's been a long time since I've made any sort of anise cookie. As a weird side note, I learned off of wikipedia that anise extract can be added to fishing bait to lure fish. Considering T doesn't like fish either, maybe there's a connection? I have no idea.

Anyway, when I was pondering what type of cookie to make (Oatmeal peanut butter being the 2nd choice), Miss S squealed with "Ooooooh anise!" So yeah, this recipe was born in my kitchen from a happy discovery that someone else actually like anise and that I could finally bake cookies using this pungent recipe again. It's adapted from a low-fat recipe for crunchy anise cinnamon crips. You know how I feel about anything low-fat (evil, I say!), so I adulterated and modified it a good bit and thus came my new favorite cookie.

Anise Lemon Thyme Sables
about 30 cookies

2 cups of flour
1/2 tsp of baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup of shortening
1/3 cup of butter softened
3/4 cup of sugar
1 large egg
one egg yolk
1 1/2 tsp of anise extract (seeds can be used as well)
1 tsp grated lemon zest
1 tsp grated lime zest
1/2 tsp of dried thyme

1 tbs of Turbinado/raw sugar for decoration (optional)

Oven temperature is 375 degrees Fahrenheit

In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt and thyme until well mixed. Set aside.

Cream the softened butter and shortening with the sugar. Add eggs, anise extract and zest. Beat until fluffy. Slowly mix in the flour to form a stiff by pliable dough.

Gather the dough and form a log atop a piece of wax paper and roll up, twisting the ends so that dough doesn't escape. I like to shape mine into a triangle so that it doesn't roll away but it doesn't matter. In fact, I suspect these would be fine as drop cookies and baked straight away. However, I like making my sables as either sliced or cut out cookies.

Anyway, put into freeze for 30 minutes or until dough firms up. Meanwhile heat oven.

When firm, slice into 1/4 pieces using a sharp knife.

Since these are sliced cookies, they shouldn't spread much (if they do, next time you make the dough, add 1/8th to a 1/4 cup of flour and see if it fixes it). Arrange fairly close together on a cookie sheet.

If you like, sprinkle raw sugar on top prior to baking (Sammi helped out with this section because it was too dang hard to photograph myself while sprinkling sugar at the same time).

Bake for roughly 10-12 minutes or until edges turn golden brown. Baking time will depend on how thin the cookies were sliced and also the dough temperature. I think we baked this batch for 12 minutes. When done, immediately remove from cookie sheet and allow to cool in a rack.

Using a mixer could probably make a lighter cookie. I hand mixed these and they still came out scrumptious---soft delicate crumb with a crunchy exterior that melts in your mouth. The thyme, lemon and anise all compliment each other and no one flavor is predominant. They smell divine too, of course. I think I finished off 6 of them in one sitting.

They go fabulous with milk or tea and good conversation.

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Sunday, April 29, 2007

of course I'm going to keep posting photos

Sooooo cute!

Soooo pliable!

The vet thinks she's closer to age 1 than 2. Given that Ragdolls take a long time to reach their full size, I suspect she's going to surpass Hippo in size.

I discovered today that she's a super deep sleeper. In fact, I was worried there was something wrong with her. She slid off my chest and sort of went *thud* on the sofa and didn't budge. T grabbed her and shook her a bit. She woke up, looked annoyed and then settled back down to snore again. She's up eating now, so I think she's okay.

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Saturday, April 28, 2007

Meet my new kitty, Etouffee

We picked up the beautiful flame point ragdoll from the Town Lake Animal shelter today. They say she's 2, but based on her build (and with what happened to Hippo...that kitty was NOT an adult when we got her as suggested by the SPCA) we think she's really a kitten. Her feet and ears are huge and most 2 year old cats don't only weigh 6 pounds.

She is so beautiful:

And she also knows how to snuggle with poor, trashed, exhausted me:

The crazy thing is that she's even MORE laid back than Hippo if you can believe that:

Eventually she's supposed to grow up to look like one of these beauties:

Or, she'll just get fat like Hippo did. Either way, I'm very happy with the new addition to the family.

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Thursday, April 26, 2007

hubby's buzzing elbow

My husband just got back from the neurologist today. He's been having an odd tingly ouchy sensation in his elbow most likely due to frequent mouse usage. This is what he wrote to me:

Yep, they electrocuted me good. There was this little device with electrodes on it that they'd stick over a nerve and send a pulse through it. It was rather unpleasant, actually. They did it in 4 or 5 different spots, but it took a bunch of tries at most of the spots, so I'd have to lie there as relaxed as possible while little jolts of energy went shooting through my arm. They also did this thing where they listened (literally listened) to my muscles. The doctor had this little acupuncture looking needle that was actually a mini-microphone that she'd stick under my skin and just a little into whatever muscle she wanted to listen to. I don't know what she was listening for, but I didn't hear anything other than what sounded like background noise.

Ugh, God, that sounds just bloody awful. I told him I felt squirmy reading all of that. He added:

The needles weren't so bad once they were in, except the one in my neck. It made the whole right side of my neck hurt, like it had a giant crick in it. But yeah, the shocks weren't much fun. The lady described it pretty well. She said it would feel like being hit with a rubber band, and that wasn't far off, except that it was a rubber band that made my hand jerk every time it hit me.

What I do find amusing though is how my dear hubby always manages to find a positive point to something as awful as getting electrocuted:

What's funny is my arm actually feels better now than it usually does. Maybe it was just overstimulated and it's going through a readjustment period, but it was nice driving up here. I couldn't really feel any of the sensation that I normally feel.


Wednesday, April 25, 2007

feeling like jello and wishlist items

I took 3 hours of class this evening because I didn't want to waste classes. Crazy me! I suspect I'm really going to feel major pain by tomorrow.

I have one tentative theremin showing booked. I'm excited but guarded. One album where I've already cut a couple of tracks as a guest artist. One other album that I am supposed to cut tracks for. *crosses fingers* My little musical goal of being something more than a flautist and baroque singer is starting to happen. I WILL get Bernadette in the spotlight more, damnit, even if it means I'm always going to be stuck with a quasi Goth wardrobe for the rest of my life (hey, I'd never give up the boots anyway).

Speaking of which, I have no idea what to wear on Friday. My sewing machine broke so it isn't like I'd be able to whip up something. I'm trying to get Sammi to go with me. It's been ages since I've had a buddy who was willing to not only dress up but give it her all on the dance floor with me. Plus, look at how cute we are:

I love this pic of Sammi:

As a random aside, I find myself wanting the following things. Geeze, I would fail miserably as a Bhuddist especially since these are all material items:

-Coffee Grinder
-New sewing machine
-Set of distortion pedals for Bernadette
-pre amplifier to record Bernadette with
-nicer microphone
-More bookshelves in the house
-red cusion cut spinel (or a large affordable piece of rough which I can cut one out of)
-really cute orange or white kitten
- a big ole cheese steak sandwich would be really good right about now as well :)

Work is going well right now. It feels really weird working on things I actually enjoy. Furthermore, there are things that are important to me and to others. Whenever I talk about my work now, I get the response of "how cool" or "what a useful tool!" or "my prof uses that." Hearing all that makes me want to over perform and deliver the best possible product possible.

It's so strange realizing that because as a theoretical math major, I never had a need for application or use (although to be honest, all math is eventually applicable in some way shape or form). In fact, I have mild disdain for those who only appreciate applicable math. Nothing against statisticians and actuaries of course because what they do is freaking hard. It's just that in college, it was often the statisticians and actuaries who tended to do really bad in classes like topology, real analysis, even vector calc. I often wondered if they turned their noises up at theoretical math simply because their brains weren't wired to do so.

The sheer beauty of the subject itself was enough to inspire me. It's odd that now, all these years later I work in a field where everything I make is an application. I just pray I never forget to see the beauty in things that don't necessarily have a a red cushion cut spinel. :)

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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Sad Kermit: Rainbow Disconnection

Funny as hell and so so wrong. I'll admit, I'm one of those folks who actually enjoyed Meet the Feebles.

To be quite honest, Sad Kermit does NIN's song "Hurt" great justice with his delicate warble-ly vox and heartfelt delivery, and dare I say, almost as good as Johnny Cash's rendition (laughs). Although, the disturbing image of him giving Rolwf a blowjob is forever burned into my dainty lady-like mind now. Fucking hell!

Please don't let your children watch this video:

I don't know who does the Kermit voice, but it's nearly dead on. Visit the website and listen to the other covers he does. I'm, of course, incredibly tickled that there are 2 NIN covers on there. You can even submit song requests and oh yes, don't forget to donate money!

Listen to:
"Rainbow Disconnection"
"Something I Can Never Have"

Sad Kermit's Myspace
Sad Kermit's Website

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Monday, April 23, 2007

evil back exercises pt. 2

I took these photos to try to convince myself that my back is getting stronger. If you recall scary Russian ballet mistress suggested that I do these things more regularly to improve my arabesque and back attitude line. I'm surprised at myself! I'm *almost* at 90 degrees! I have a ways to go, but at least there is some progress:

And of course I just had to post this because Hippo was very curious about what I was doing as I was holding a pose:

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Munchie Mondays: Carrot Beet Salad

Drat, this was probably the hardest finished food item I've ever tried to photograph!
Believe me, this fresh and gorgeous dish does not look like innards as my picture suggests:

Think more along the lines of rich deep fuschia red and bright happy orange intermingling with one another in a bowl of tangy succulent sauce. The mouth feel is just fantastic--the crunchiness of the raw beets and carrots is quite refreshing.

I just had to include a gratuitous stock photo from in order to make this page more enticing to look at. Sheesh! Just try the salad out, will ya?

Given that I don't have a decent Cuisinart blender, I did all the hand grating by hand with a cheese grater. My forearms is killing me. However, this salad was rewarding enough for the labor involved.

You can julienne them instead to make a crunchier salad if so desired.

Cindy's Beet and Carrot Salad
Serves 2

3 medium carrots peeled and grated
2 medium beets peeled and grated
1 garlic clove crushed
1 tbs of olive oil (or more to taste)
1 tsp of salt
pinch of pepper
Juice of 1 lemon

Mix all ingredients into a bowl and let stand at room temperature for at least 20 minutes to allow all flavors to mingle. Then serve. Easy eh?

Some people like this salad cold. I happen to think it tastes better at room temperature. Some also don't care much for the garlic. If that's the case, just omit and the salad tastes just fine. It's important to use the freshest possible beets and carrots around because these are not cooked. Look for firm roots with attached greens that are vibrant and healthy looking.

I wouldn't keep this salad for more than a day since it will get soggy over time as more of the olive oil lemon juice mixture gets absorbed.

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Sunday, April 22, 2007

wide awake at...5am???

I seriously have some BAD insomnia going on right now. It's 5am on a Sunday morning and I think I maybe slept 3 hours. :(

I figured I'd clean up my computer, answer some emails and work on some music related programming while up. I did manage to find this hilarious picture:

This was taken literally minutes after I bought my MacBook a couple of months ago. Heh...I had no idea the computer would take a photo of me the first time I logged on. You can see Sejal, my lovely (and very pregnant) office mate standing behind me, eating a snack and giving me direction on how to set up my wireless settings. Cute.

I had a very fulfilling dream last night that simultaneously involved vindication and passive revenge. I do have this bizarre psychic streak in me (from my own observation, what my friends observe and based on 3 separate tarot readings...I'm not even into that kind of stuff, so it must be true). Anyhow, I'm gloating on the inside.

I think we have a new winner in the root veggy mistaken identity game over at HEB. This time I was up on the one at Parmer and the dude who was weighing my white potatoes declared "These are pears, right?"

I have to admit though, this time I think his confusion was warrented. They sort of did look like bosc pears at a quick glance, Pears aren't even a vegetable. For the record, he did ask if my rutabagas were turnips. That's pretty close, so the cashiers there are making progress. He also got bonus points for saying the fennel smelled good.

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Friday, April 20, 2007

Nine Inch Nails: Year Zero

(photo by Rob Sheridan)

Had Trent Reznor been this productive back in the day, no way in hell would I have graduated from college and finished graduate studied. I don't know how the heck a student aged NINner could possibly go to classes with this much entertainment surrounding them. Two albums within a 3 year period. That's crazy. Let's not forget the barrage of concerts, the DVD and the freaking alternate reality game. If you've had your head in the sand for whatever reason, this good USA Today article can get you up to speed.

First and foremost, if you're a NIN fan, buy the fucking album, okay? This definitely sounds better than the audio stream and the album art is slick. My cellophane wrapper even has a sticker that says 16 noisy new songs. How cool is that?

Now, this is a hard post for me to write. As as I was walking back from work I kept fishing for words, reexamining how this album actually makes me feel and cross checking what my expectations were to begin with. I must say, as a big nail head myself, it's really hard to be objective at times when it comes to Trent Reznor and his music. You want everything to blow you away because for the most part it does and when I say everything, I mean EVERYTHING. It's accepted knowledge that Reznor is one of the innovative musicians in the world, but the alternate reality game that supports marketing for Year Zero is pure genius. Entertaining. Yes. Creative. Yes. Intellectual. Yes. Incredibly well executed. Hell yeah.

He's one to give back to all over his fans as well. Take for instance the footage of the Art is Resistance meeting (turned surprise NIN concert) in LA up at one of the related Year Zero sites:

Year Zero isn't just about the new album, it's about the entire experience. Observing the interactivity and community forming around all of this is overwhelming and quite beautiful, actually. So, when I say the music on the album itself really takes a back seat to everything else NIN related this time around, I mean that in the nicest possible way. This isn't exactly a criticism, but it is to say that the album as a free standing entity is not only unimportant to me but that it is more vital for the music to play in the role of a supporting piece for Year Zero's alternate reality.

I missed out on a lot of the game as it was unfolding due to being off line for most of February and March, so I wasn't as caught up in the hype as I would have liked to. However, it did give me the unique opportunity to listen to the album somewhat objectively as an old fan. Each song in of itself stands quite well on its own featuring interesting sounds, textures and significant lyrics. Unfortunately, although the tracks fit together as a cohesive themed unit, I feel, dare I say it, some portions sound repetitive. There are chord progressions and melodic themes that tread too close to "sameness" compared to songs from earlier albums With_Teeth and The Fragile. With that said, I think a new listener would be impressed by general sound of the album: Trent's vox is powerful as ever and the effects and distortion are cool sounding. The song "In This Twilight" has exceptionally lovely words...

As a companion to the ARG surrounding Year Zero, this album is the perfect soundtrack. Unfortunately, I have to say, if we're talking about just the songs, the whole sum isn't necessarily better than its parts. Granted I'm comparing this again my usual standards for NIN...and they're astronomically high.

But does it really fucking matter? Hell No because the musical genius behind Nine Inch Nails completely blows all other artists out of the water.

Listen to (courtesy of

"Me I'm Not, Wretched I'm Not" (songmash by Shagg127)
"Survivalism Remix" (Megaton edit by Chris Rose)


Nine Inch Nails Official Website
Year Zero Mini Site
The NIN Hotline
Echoing the Sound
be a part of the resistance...
remix your own version of "Survivalism" (requires Garage Band)


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random blatherings again

The dude from the VA Tech shooting sounds disturbingly like Napoleon Dynamite.

I am a bit shocked that NBC released his self taped footage and manifesto so quickly to the public. It seems a bit early when the even only just occurred on Monday. The motive is clear and boring at the same time: this was a disturbed and stricken man angry at the world, nothing short of typical teenage angst. However, I still maintain that although the grief the families who lost their loved ones is overwhelming, the notion of "Asian Shame" could very well be more overbearing for Cho's parents. Remember, they're the ones who gave birth to this murderer. They're the one's who will have to live in terror of those 32 families, authorities and general mass of angry citizens who will want to take everything out on them. In addition, they will have to live with the shame of their own mother country. It wouldn't surprise me if they were on suicide watch. Korea is acting as if they as a country committed this act and it frustrates me. It gives fodder to those racists out there who are more willing to point the finger to some chink or dark skinned dude or emo-goth trench coat mafia kid who listens to Marilyn Manson...My friend Shawn told me some of his Korean friends are wary of going outside. They all live in Kansas which can be a bit more close minded than Austin, but still, it's unfair. That boy was an American with American flaws. He came here legally when he was a just a kid and I too am tired of hearing "Cho Seung-hui from South Korea..."

In totally unrelated news, I've been having nightmares about my father lately. It's made me kind of cranky because I haven't been able to sleep well. These usually involve nurses or med techs injecting him with "happy medicine" and him trying to communicate with me that he's feeling a lot of pain but they want to shut him up. In another one, my dad was trapped in an MRI, but somehow I was inside too and could feel his claustrophobia as well.

We've held off on the kitten search. I guess I like having Hippo almost all to myself these days. It's like the hubby and I each have our own exclusive cat.

I've been getting frustrated with the details of recording equipment lately. I sort of have this arrogant streak about me when it comes to "figuring stuff out." This applies mainly to arts and crafts, learning instruments, cooking, home improvement, people and technical gadgets (excluding cars). Intuition usually gets me 90% there. The rest is trial and error. If there's a how-to book or manual the whole process is expedited. Of course it's easier if you know someone...but I hate asking for help sometimes.

In the case of just trying to get my keyboard to send MIDI to my computer, I've been pulling my hair out. Granted I've only spent a couple of hours on this, but I'm annoyed intuition didn't win this time around. I lost my Yamaha PSR manual ages ago so I haven't been able to figure *quite* what order I need to type in things so that it sends the recorded files to Garage Band. I know, I know, the manual could probably be found online, but once again, my hardheadedness is enticing me to do things the hard way. *sigh* I'm not any better than an average guy in this case.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

the Face of a Gunman

This 23 year old shot and killed 32 students at Virgina Tech early yesterday morning before turning the gun on himself and committing suicide. I naturally feel great remorse for those who had to experience the horror of this event, but what stirs me the most is that these students and their loved ones might never find out why Cho Seung-Hui committed such an heinous act. Depression? Anger? Boredom?

To be honest, I also have sympathy for his parents who now how to live with this shame and constant fear from those who will lash out against them. What is going through their minds right now? Has their "American Dream" come to a grinding halt now that their own son is not only dead, but a mass murderer.

I graduated from the University of Texas at Austin so this event definitely gave us alums and extra jolt when we heard the news. In case you're wondering what I'm referring to, I'm talking about the Whitman shooting that happened back in 1966. Some faculty I work with were actually there when it happened and the details of that day (especially Whitman's methodical actions) are incredibly gory and fascinating at the same time. Back then, there wasn't much of a sophisticated warning system in place. You just had to get news from the panicky masses or notice the sniper up at the top of the Main Building pegging people. Scary shit, let me tell you. You can still see some bullet holes on the front steps of the limestone courtyard that faces south...

Many students from Virgina Tech cite well deserved frustration with the delayed response time the university took informing students about the emergency situation. Apparently an email was sent out a couple hours after the first shootings...that is a LONG lag time. I'm not sure what other methods they used, but 2 fucking hours after the shooting and officials finally send an email citing a campus emergency to the students? Did this message get hung up on the server or something? Was someone agonizing over wording? What the hell happened? Someone is going to be in the hot seat, I imagine.

On a related note, it blows my mind that someone was calm enough to record the shooting on his cell phone.


Monday, April 16, 2007

Munchie Mondays: Apple Cheese Pastries

Apples and cheese go hand in hand. It's a combination that never fails and yet you don't see the pairing much in baked goods all that often, oddly.

This pastry is really more about the cheese, so pick a fragrant aged cheddar. The blue cheese gives it a kick but if you like something more mellow, add more cheddar or maybe some brie to the mix. The walnuts add a nice crunch while the apples and raisins add just enough sweetness to counterbalance the sharpness of the cheese. Think of it as a glorified empanada.

Apple and Cheese Pastry
Makes 4 large pastries

1 prepared pie crust
1 small apple finely diced (about 1/2 to 3/4 cup)
1/4 cup of roughly chopped sharp cheddar
1/4 cup of crumbled blue cheese -or- brie -or- other dessert cheese
1/4 cup of raisins
1/3 cup of walnut pieces
1/2 tsp of cinnamon (optional)
1/2 tsp of thyme (optional)
1/2 tsp salt

preheat oven to 375 degrees Farenheit

In a bowl combine ingredients. You can add or subtract herbs to your liking. Some people even add honey to make this a sweet pastry, but I like mine on the savory side. Cut pastry into quarters.

Place a quarter of the filling material in the center of triangular piece of pie crust and moisten edge of pastry with water. This part is a tad tricky: Carefully pick up pastry and contents and using your hand gently cup the pastry so that contents fall towards the center.

Draw tips together so that you have a tetrahedron shaped pastry and pinch opposing sides closed securely. Depending on how you rolled your dough out the edges may not touch. If this is the case, remove some of the filling.

Repeat for the other 3 pieces. Place on an ungreased baking sheet and bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes. When done the pastries should be golden brown and the cheese and juice of the fruit should be bubbling though the seams slightly.

I realize it is tempting to bite into one of these immediately but PLEASE let them cool off a bit. The steam and melted cheese on the inside will cause a serious burn. Take them off the baking sheet and let cool on a wire rack for about 10 minutes or so. The inside will still be ooey gooey and delicious.

This goes fantastic with wine and fresh fruit. Try it with yogurt or mushroom cream sauce on top. For a variation, I think figs or dates would work well in place of the raisins.

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Sunday, April 15, 2007

Where them apples go?

I'm cranky today. :(

I was all set to make the next Munchie Monday: Apple and Cheese pastries and discovered that I'm out of a apples! Considering I've been craving tons of meat lately and we have no meat at home, we ought to go grocery shopping. Meh. I ain't in the mood.

We owe $2000 to the IRA this year. That's more than our monthly mortgage! Last year we owed over a thousand. At the advice of our accountant, T and I went down to 0 allowances on our W-2 thinking that would ensure the right amount would be taken out each month. It turns out it's *still* not enough. In fact, we owe more than we did last year. How is that possible? You'd think the formulas would be somewhat accurate and be proportional to any raises, extra income, etc. The total withholdings over this past year came out to more than 10% of our combined income. :( Can anyone offer a helpful manner of estimating any additional withholdings we need to contribute each month (aside from just doing taxes)?

On a different note, my friend Shawn and I are going to cover Tim Young's song "Fire Exit." His is upbeat and tons of fun to listen to (reminiscent of the Beatles), but so far the palate I've come up with sounds like a fucking ethereal pseudo R&B song. Because I'm so cranky and down, I can't get out of that mood either. I'm hoping Shawn (whenever school lets up) can help a bit. Maybe a flamenco-esque version would be neat. That conveys fire. I do love the pre-loaded software on my Mac though but I can see how getting so much sound candy can be a hindrance to creativity. On that note though, the distorted flute and baby hammer dulcimer is pretty damn cool, so there is one small thing to pat my back on. :)

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Thursday, April 12, 2007

Tim Young vs. The Trucks: "Titties"

(image of Tim Young from The Face of Today)

What makes you think we can fuck just because you put your tongue in my mouth and you twist it? My titties bay-bah.

Boy, if I had a dime for every time I had to say that line, I'd be...well, poor, actually. I'm more prone to slapping and stabbing than coming up with a line that witty, but I digress.

I heard the original track by the Trucks a few months ago and my reaction was somewhat indifferent, to be honest. I mean yeah, good party song, great potty lyrics and definitely something my bro would love, but didn't cause me to register them as a new favorite band or anything. Don't get me wrong, they're not bad at all. Hot chick rock rules, some of the other songs are awesome ("Shattered" has a great LCD Soundsystem-esque sound) and I love how they use digital media (and glockenspiel!), but I have to say if it weren't for Tim Young's version of "Titties" I may have forgotten about them.

There was a remix contest for that song a while back by Clickpop records and Tim FUCKING WON!!!!!! And yes, this is the Tim Young of Contrast Podcast.

What makes his remix so kick ass? The freaking rapid fire rapping he does. Seriously, check it out.

Listen to:
"Titties" largin' it mix (Tim Young)
"Titties" (original version by The Trucks)

All Things Tim
The Trucks Official Website
Clickpop Records

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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

back bend craziness

We've established on numerous occasions that I ain't a spring chicken at least in the ballet world. Although I can do the splits and have fairly loose hamstrings my back is pretty darn stiff. This has as much to do with skirting close to 30 as it does with the fact that my day job consists of sitting in front of a computer.

I discovered the most horrendous exercise known to man yesterday in ballet class. My usual com padres are all taking their Royal Academy of Dance examinations right now, so I was carted off to the advanced pointe class which, by the way, was nearly impossible to keep up with. I was sweating enough just trying to remember the combinations never mind holding my leg up above my head at 180 degrees. Vlada, the instructor, was quite kind though and understood why I was there instead of pondering why a short chubby gal was tainting her long-legged sylphs. And yes, her name is Vlada and she's add to the pressure, lets just say two of the other students are named Nikita and Dimitri.

Anyhow, at one point Vlada instructed us to get on our bellies. That's odd, I thought to myself and then the sweet gal (who happened to be the senior division 2004 Youth Grand Prix winner, by the way) at the bar with me offered: "Oh, we're doing backwards sit ups." I asked if she could go first because I wanted my notion of what this would entail to be proven wrong. Anyhow, it ended up being worse than I imagined. Sitting on Cody's perfectly arched feet and holding onto her sinewy well turned out legs, I watched every freaking muscle in her back and buttocks contract as she went from lying on her stomach to being arched backwards lifting the top part of her body so that she was folded into an elegant L shape with her arms encircled above her head.

Good grief! Would I even be able to get my cheat off the ground? And then to add to my horror, I heard Madame Vlada yell out: "ONE! Down...TWO! Down...THREE....Down...."

All the gals on the ground started doing their backwards sit ups to the count of the instructor and at the end they had to hold the arched position. I couldn't stop admiring the lovely musculature of my ballerina buddy, but good God, the fear was immense.

My turn wasn't too bad. I was afraid that my partner wouldn't weigh enough to pin my legs down, but seeing she's 100% muscle mass proved to be enough. I could get my chest off the ground a decent amount, but I was no where near a 90 degree arch. Furthermore, by the time Vlada has counted to 3 I about ready to quit. Oy!

What's the point of these? you may ask.

Well, the idea is to have an incredibly elongated line that resembles Irina Dvorovenko:

If you recall an earlier post with the leg warmers, I'm technically doing the same ballet pose as she is, but without the flexibility or elevation. That's about how high my leg goes up, folks. Remember, I ain't a spring chicken!

I should add that Irina is not kicking her leg up there and relying on the magic of flash photography. No-no...she's holding that position with the muscles in her back, ass and legs. Frankly whenever you're in this back attitude position or any ballet position for that matter, you're using every freaking muscle in your body. For the record, Cody can get an even more pronounced arch, but I couldn't find a pic of her.

Needless to say my back hurts like hell today.

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Tuesday, April 10, 2007

hyperbolic geometry at 7am in the morning

On my bus ride down to work this morning, I happened to sit next to a student who assumed I was a student and asked if I was taking vector calculus.

"Ten years ago, " I said.

He seemed somewhat confused (and a bit too alert, I might add given that the sun had just barely come up) and then asked if I worked down town. After exchanging the regular bout of introductions he then proceeded to ask me about what measure theory was exactly. Now that was especially random. In my cloud of morning exhaustion fuzz, I attempted to gave him a brief explanation and then realized mid sentence that I never once told him that I majored in math or that I even used measure theory in any useful manner at work. This was when the whole barrage of questions just started zipping through my brain:

Why is this so important at 7am in the morning?
Was he a former student of mine?
Do I have a big sign that reads "nerd" hanging around my neck?
Was he simply assuming I knew advanced math because I was Asian?
Did Dr. Radin send out a spy to check up on me?

I was too tired to bother asking out loud, but I guess the important thing was that he was inquiring and I had the answers. This eventually turned into a deep conversation (or rather as deep as one can get when one of the participants is half asleep) about Hyperbolic geometry, my master's thesis and how this translates to the shape of the universe. He seemed utterly fascinated with the comparison I made with a Poincaré disc and the edge of a lettuce leaf and wanted to know more about a periodic tilings ...Ironically, I never did really wake up. I was just regurgitating pieces of information stored in my brain from years ago that never needed to resurface until now.

Normally such a conversation would be invigorating. I'd encourage whoever I was speaking with to explore more maths. Excitement would abound with finding math nerd brethren. However, today emotionally I felt as if we were talking about the weather.

I think I'm mildly depressed or something. I guess I'm a little alarmed by how meh I am with the whole event. I never bothered trying to get to know who he was or why he wanted to know all of this. I was the anti-social teacher. I'm ashamed of myself really--disappointed at how blase' I acted. This could have been a fantastic teaching/learning opportunity and I can't help but wonder if I was too aloof and cold towards the excited student. Was this a lesson from the universe? What does this say about me? I dunno.

Maybe I'm jaded these days....or maybe I'm just plain tired at 7am in the morning. All I know is the dude's name was Robin, he's a mechanical engineer and that he asked for my email address so he could contact me for math help. Why the hell did I hand out my email address to a complete stranger?

Lately I've been pondering a great bit about Joshua Bell. No, not pining after him or admiring his physical and musical beauty but really just feeling baffled at the events outlined in this Washington Post Article. Basically, as a "stunt" of sorts, Bell pretended to be a street musician serenading rush hour pedestrians in downtown DC with Brahm's "Chaconne" (and other pieces you'd normally hash out $100 bucks to hear in concert). One person out of the 1,097 recognized him during the 45 minute show. The video is painful to watch, frankly. About 4 people really stop to listen and you can see Bell in all his glory playing just as beautifully as he would at Carnegie Hall. At the very least you would expect people to look his way, but most pedestrians just ignore him. They don't hear him. Are people in this much of a fog on their way to work (after this morning's math lesson, I'm starting to wonder if that was the case) or are the purposefully ignoring him because they don't want to acknowledge a street musician?

How much did he make in pocket change? $32.17.

From the article:

"Actually," Bell said with a laugh, "that's not so bad, considering. That's 40 bucks an hour. I could make an okay living doing this, and I wouldn't have to pay an agent."

Joshua is such a good sport.

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Monday, April 09, 2007

Munchie Mondays: Sun Dried Tomato and Basil Artisan Bread

This bread was initially adapted from a recipe for a chocolate and prune loaf by Ursula Ferrigno and Eric Treuille. It was created merely to use up basil that was about to turn. Furthermore, I was having another carb craving and just didn't feel like eating cereal or pasta.

Because it was adapted from a sweet bread, the crumb is delicate and soft. This makes it exceptionally good toasted.

Sun Dried Tomato and Basil Artisan Bread

yields one beautiful loaf

2 1/2 tsp of dry yeast
1 1/2 cups of warm water
3/4 cups of wheat flour
3 cups of white flour (plus additional for dusting)
1 egg lightly beaten
2 tbs of butter melted (can substitute with 3 tbs of olive oil)
1 1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cups of chopped sun dried tomatoes
1 tbs of dried basil (or 2 tbs of fresh basil chopped)
1/4 cup of chopped nuts (pecans, almonds or walnuts)

Sprinkle yeast onto 1/2 cup of the warm water in a small dish. Let dissolve for 5 minutes and then stir to dissolve. Mix flours and salt in large bowl and make a well in the center. Dump yeast liquid in center of well and draw in some of the surround flour to make a paste. Cover and let the yeast do it's thing for 20 mintues until you have a frothy "sponge" inside the well you made earlier.

Once the froth has risen, add the rest of the water, beaten egg and melted butter into the dough and mix thoroughly. Turn out onto a flour dusted work surface and using your hands knead for 10 minutes until dough is elastic. This is a very sticky dough and you may need to add additional flour to make it more workable. Sprinkle flour on the surface and gradually work into dough making sure that the mixture is soft to the touch, pliable but not smearing all over your hands and work surface.

When done kneading, place in a lightly oiled bowl and let rise in a warm spot for about an hour or until the dough has doubled in size.

After rising, punch down dough and then let rest for 10 minutes. Dump sun dried tomatoes, nuts and basil on top and using fingertips gently mush and squeeze the flavoring ingredients into the dough until evenly incorporated. This is much easier than trying to knead the ingredients in on a table top due to how soft the bread mixture is.

Shape into a ball and place on a lightly oiled banking pan. If desired, prior to proofing, dust with sifted flour. Cover and proof for about 30 minutes or until loaf has expanded about 1/3 of it's original size.

Bake in a preheated oven set at 350 degrees Farenheit for 45 mintues or until done (bread is light brown in color sounds hollow when tapped underneath). Immediately transfer onto a wire rack to cool.

I like toasting slices of the bread and eating it with salad. I'm sure with prosciutto, this would be a divine snack. Another serving suggestion is to smear pesto on slices then adding chopped olives and feta on top. Toast until feta is browned and then prior to serving, drizzle olive oil and sprinkle with black pepper. Yummy!

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Friday, April 06, 2007


My favorite song of all time is called "The Easter Song" by Paul and Storm. (You can hear it off of their website and my music blog.) But anyway, the lyrics are as follows:

Easter time is here again
And it’s the day we celebrate
The morning that the Easter Bunny rises from the grave
And if he sees his shadow then it’s six more winter
If he doesn’t see it, everyone gets Cadbury Crème Eggs
And he never sees his shadow, thank the Lord

Moses and the Hebrews never celebrated Easter
They were busy building pyramids and matzoh for the Greeks
So that night they set the Pharaoh’s clocks ahead one hour
And they all escaped, and that’s why we put colored eggs in baskets
With jellybeans and neon plastic grass

Plus there was that final supper with the twelve Apostles
But the word in Aramaic for “apostles” is “apeeps”
And that is how they got the name for those marshmallow treats
So every time you eat those little yellow chicks and bunnies
You actually are swallowing Apostles

So that’s the Easter story
Even though we didn’t mention
Anything about the burning bush
Or chocolate-covered Popes
You might want to do a bit more research on the details
‘cause in truth I mostly slept my way through Sunday school
But at least I’m pretty sure that’s how it goes

The funny is that details and origins of holidays were kind of mangled in my mind growing up due to the fact that my parents were from Taiwan and we were not initially a church going family. Hence, this song is somewhat accurate at least in the context of my childhood. Somehow Cleopatra and Jezebel managed to become the same person, the notion of Santa was something my dad balked at ("You got those gifts from your parents with hard earned money") and brother and I never really understood all the hoo-ha surrounding Ground Hog Day never mind knowing which Sunday Advent started.

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Paul and Storm: News to Us

Paul Sabourin, and Greg "Storm" DiCostanzo comprise of half of one of my favorite comedy acapella groups, Da Vinci's Notebook. By that fact, you know that these two can really sing but of course, fans of this duo know them for their funny-as-hell lyrics and lovely musicality.

"The Easter Song" is not only appropriate due to the upcoming holiday, but it also holds a very special place in my heart. My parents were from Taiwan and were raised Buddhist. My brother and I were born here, but a lot of references to Christianity and general US culture continued to be a bit mangled up through high school. These lyrics aren't too far off from our comprehension while growing up:

Easter time is here again
And it’s the day we celebrate
The morning that the Easter Bunny rises from the grave
And if he sees his shadow then it’s six more winter
If he doesn’t see it, everyone gets Cadbury Crème Eggs
And he never sees his shadow, thank the Lord

Moses and the Hebrews never celebrated Easter
They were busy building pyramids and matzoh for the Greeks
So that night they set the Pharaoh’s clocks ahead one hour
And they all escaped, and that’s why we put colored eggs in baskets
With jellybeans and neon plastic grass

Plus there was that final supper with the twelve Apostles
But the word in Aramaic for “apostles” is “apeeps”
And that is how they got the name for those marshmallow treats
So every time you eat those little yellow chicks and bunnies
You actually are swallowing Apostles

So that’s the Easter story
Even though we didn’t mention
Anything about the burning bush
Or chocolate-covered Popes
You might want to do a bit more research on the details
‘cause in truth I mostly slept my way through Sunday school
But at least I’m pretty sure that’s how it goes

Listen to:
"The Easter Song"
"Your Love Is"

The uber funny jingle for a Necco Wafers commercial attempt. (Their song for Fresh Step kitty litter is a personal fave as well).

Seriously though I don't know anyone who actually likes Necco Wafers. Those things taste like chalk and yet they've been around since before I was born.

Paul and Storm performing the "Easter Song" live.

Paul and Storm's Official Website
Paul and Storm's Myspace
Da Vinci's Notebook (now defunct man band)
Download and Purchase Paul and Storm's Music

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Depends On

Hailing from the Czech republic, Depends On cites influences such as Radiohead, Bjork, NIN and French industrial band Treponem Pal. With his deep and resonate vocals, singer Karel Pistek ought to add Peter Murphy to the group as well. The combination of Bjork and NIN definitely caught my eye and this band proved to be a worthwhile listen.

Some of the music veers more towards rock than industrial, but there are definitely discernible digital elements to the tracks. What makes this band stand out is the manner in which they incorporate piano. I find the orchestration and sound structure surprising. A good example of this is the track "You are the Horizon" with the sweet and complex piano line that sneaks up on the ears after the digitally enhanced rhythm intro. I'm drawn to Pistek's accent which is attractive and doesn't detract from the lyrics.

Band members are:
Karel Pistek-vocals, guitar
Petr Houska-drums, sound engineering
Pepa Devera-piano, guitar, words

Listen to (courtesy of Max De Laya):
"The Blood Exchange"

Depends On's Myspace
Devera's Body Art Site

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Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Nine Inch Nails: Year Zero (streaming)

Trent loves you. He really does. Considering the leaked tracks, fun internet games, cyptic clues and other hoo-ha thus far, you should know that by now.

So for those of you wanting to hold off until April 17th, don't click the link below. I'm hearing it right now at work and damn, it's good stuff. The tracks flow beautifully from one to the other. It's brutal and gorgeous at the same time. I am trying to be a good girl though and will hold off listening to the album with my full attention on a decent sound system until I have the physical CDs in my hands. Till then, the rest of y'all should enjoy.

The man himself put the entire album online so I'm guessing the RIAA is gonna be a tad miffed.

Listen to (courtesy of the official NIN Year Zero site):
Year Zero

Nine Inch Nails official website
Year Zero official site
The Nine Inch Nails Hotline
Year Zero discussion forum (hosted by Echoing the Sound)
Preorder Year Zero off of Amazon

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Monday, April 02, 2007

Whoo hoo! Legwarmers

Yay. Sammi made me some kick ass leg warmers. I feel the lurve. I really do. :) Not only did she knit them, she hand spun the yarn and dyed it a perfect shade of "Cindy red" using...KOOL AID! I love them.

This photo looks wonky due to me taking it with a self timer and not metering the light correctly, but's me wearing these kick ass legwarmers.

I also made sure to take pics of Sammi's HUGE afghan that only took her a week to make if I am not mistaken. It is so decadent and richly textured. I'm super impressed. The wool is also homespun and naturally this color.

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